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Former Cannon & Dunphy attorney reprimanded for dispute with firm

Pewaukee attorney James J. Gende II received a public reprimand from the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday as the result of disputes with Gende’s former employer, Cannon & Dunphy SC.

Gende was employed at the Brookfield firm from September 2000 to April 2004 before he left to start his own firm, Gende Law Office SC. Though a separation agreement was set forth at the time of his departure, fee disputes between Gende and his former employer erupted almost immediately and, according to court documents Tuesday, “By late May 2004, both Attorney Gende and Cannon & Dunphy had hired counsel to represent them.”

The resulting “war,” as the Office of Lawyer Regulation’s referee referred to the fee disputes, went on for several years as Gende and the firm litigated the issue of fees and costs in a number of the cases.

According to the court file, “In none of the cases did a court ever conclude that Cannon & Dunphy was not entitled to the fees it claimed. However, in no case was Attorney Gende sanctioned nor was his litigation position ever found to be frivolous.”

In its opinion Tuesday, the state Supreme Court agreed with the referee that “Attorney Gende’s conduct and his repeated stalling tactics in an effort to avoid paying fees owed to Cannon & Dunphy were inappropriate, and that his conduct was contrary to Wisconsin’s Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys.”

Gende was ordered to make restitution to Cannon & Dunphy in the amount of $20,221.76 and pay the full costs of the proceeding, which were $28,478.26 as of June 4.

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